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Sunday, January 03, 2010

PBS Series 'This Emotional Life' Starts Monday

PBS' This Emotional Life, a three-day program running from Jan. 4-6, begins tomorrow. Its six hours explore topics such as grief and loss, addiction, anger, stress and anxiety, creativity and flow, humor, resilience, happiness and more.

While each evening looks to be well worth a viewing, for those coping with or caring for someone with post-traumatic stress, be sure to tune in on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when the topic will be presented via the experience of an Iraq veteran and his family. See the video clip -- along with a few other topic preview clips from the show and a full description of each night's episode -- in extended. You might also check out PBS' information and resource-intensive website.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Here's what to expect from the series:

The episodes trace our relationships and what science reveals about them beginning with our very first one, the parent-child bond, and how our connections to others impact our happiness.

January 4, Episode 1: Family, Friends & Lovers
The first episode looks at the importance of relationships and why they are central to our emotional well-being. What are the cognitive and neurological processes underpinning our everyday interactions, and can they help us to understand why some relationships flourish and others fail? We meet a young boy adopted from a Russian orphanage, whose story illustrates how a lack of attachment in infancy fundamentally shapes his ability to build relationships for years to come. We meet the young parents of newborn twins; a couple in therapy for a troubled marriage; a teenager who was bullied with tragic consequences; two women grappling with the stress of workplace conflicts; and other characters — all to better understand the importance of social connections and relationships.

January 5, Episode 2: Facing Our Fears
In the second episode, we look at emotions that are commonly regarded as obstacles to happiness — such as anger, fear, anxiety and despair. Why do we have these emotions and how can we best manage them? Our brains are designed for survival, and the negative emotions they create are vital to that mission. But those negative emotions can spiral out of control with debilitating effects. We meet a woman whose inability to control her temper is jeopardizing her relationships; a college student whose fear of flying is limiting her life; and a teenager on the eve of attending college who is struggling to overcome clinical depression. We also meet veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder and follow their journeys to find effective treatment. Across the episode, science reminds us that we are of two minds — a rational brain that’s relatively new and an emotional brain that’s older than time. Sometimes, emotion overwhelms reason, sometimes reason outwits emotion, and it is the endless struggle that makes our lives so painful, so joyous and so interesting.

January 6, Episode 3: Rethinking Happiness
The last episode explores happiness. It is so critical to our well-being and, yet, it remains an elusive goal for many of us. What is it, why is it important and how can we attain more of it? We meet individuals facing major turning points in their lives — a job loss, a cancer diagnosis, the death of a child, an accident — as well as those facing more common struggles. We learn from the latest research that we often incorrectly predict what will bring us greater happiness, leading us to look for it in the wrong places. As the study of behavior turns more toward positive emotions, we explore the latest research on the activities and qualities that foster them, such as meditation, compassion, forgiveness and altruism.

We also share the remarkable stories of resilient individuals whom scientists are studying to learn more about us all, including a man who overcame an abusive childhood to become a renowned surgeon and a Vietnam veteran who survived torture, solitary confinement and seven years as a POW, yet emerged emotionally unscathed. Understanding why some people have the ability to bounce back after disaster strikes, while others do not, sheds light on how all of us can lead happier, more fulfilling lives. The film ends by coming full circle to the understanding that it is the quality of our relationships — with friends, family and the larger community — that ultimately defines our happiness.

Vets and advocates may be happy to see that PBS has done quite a bit of outreach leading up to the premiere of This Emotional Life. One of the people who worked on the project was Steve Robinson, a name that should be familiar to anyone who follows veterans issues. Yesterday he blogged about the experience at Huffington Post:

It's now 2010. This new year will mark the ninth year I have been a full time veteran advocate and the eighth year that we as a nation have been at war. I retired in 2001 after 20 years of service in the Army.

I have been given the opportunity to work with PBS as an advisor on military and family issues for the upcoming series This Emotional Life, which premiers January fourth 2010. This experience has required me to carefully reflect on the odyssey of the American military family.

Life in the military has always been an emotional rollercoaster but this generation of military families is sacrificing at unprecedented levels. The cost of eight years of uninterrupted combat operations is straining one of our most valuable resources, the family support system.

I have seen firsthand what can happen when a family is not resourced and prepared for the return of warriors. It all started when my father left for his third tour in Vietnam. I remember he walked into my room and woke me up. He gave me a letter and told me not to open it unless my mother gave me permission. I didn't know at the time but he had given me a death letter.

Death letters have a long tradition in the military. Some troops write them before they go to war. Others write them after close calls. Years passed, the letter got lost. I recently found it in a box some 40 years later. The letter was my father's attempt to tell me how to grow up in the event he died while serving. He survived the war, but when he came home he brought the war into our lives and family. His letter explained what he wanted me to be and who he was before he left. But just like service members today, my Dad went off to war and came home changed. Read more>>

The following clip includes comments by Robinson and others on the importance of mental health support for military members and families (PBS and Blue Star Families co-sponsored a Veterans Day volunteer event hosted by ServiceNation with service members and volunteers stuffing care packages for military families):

A preview clip on a military family's trials with PTSD:

What PTSD is, specifically:

On reslilence (more on Vietnam vet Bob Shumaker's experience):

On stress and mental well-being:

On the power of meditation:

On happiness and intimacy:

Thank you to PBS for offering us all this emotional boost to a new week and a new year. And here's to everyone finding their way toward emotional well-being, resilience and happiness.

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